November 29, 2015, 07:00 pm
By Jonathan Swan
The United States contractor imprisoned for five years by the Castro regime, Alan Gross, is revealing his parting words to his Cuban captors: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Speaking in his first TV interview since being released in President Obama’s December 2014 prisoner-swap deal, Gross told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he had been exasperated by the U.S. government’s failure to help him after sending him there on a “cockamamie” USAID mission.
For the first two weeks after being captured in 2009, Gross said he expected to be rescued by the U.S. government. “And then I said to myself, ‘Where the hell are they? Where are they?’ ”
“I didn’t have any idea I’d be there for five years,” Gross said.
Gross detailed the horrific conditions he was held in, and some of the survival techniques that got him through.
His Cuban captors “threatened to hang me,” Gross said, according to transcripts released by CBS ahead of the Sunday night screening.
“They threatened to pull out my fingernails. They said I’d never see the light of day,” he added.
“I had to do three things in order to survive, three things every day.”
“I thought about my family that survived the Holocaust. I exercised religiously every day. And I found something every day to laugh at.”
Gross, now 66, was sent to Cuba in 2008 on a mission to set up independent internet connections for the Jewish community there. It was a risky plan, and after his first couple of trips to Cuba, he noticed he was being followed. In 2009, he was abducted from his Havana hotel, CBS reports.
“I thought I was in an old Humphrey Bogart movie,” Gross said. “They took me to a hospital, they took my clothes they gave me these striped pajamas.”
Gross spent the next year in a tiny room, crammed with ants, roaches, and two other prisoners. It was dark, he had little food, and was interrogated constantly. He eventually lost 110 pounds.
Eventually, after a long effort from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to free Gross, the Obama administration struck a prisoner-swap deal with the Castro regime — the first part of the president’s strategy to open up relations with Cuba.
CBS reporter Scott Pelley finished the interview by asking Gross: “You know, I’m curious. What did you say to your captors on leaving?”
“Hasta la vista, baby,” Gross replied.
“Seriously?” Pelley asked.
“Seriously,” Gross replied.